Expat Qs

Has it really been an entire two weeks since my last post? Wow… sorry. I didn’t mean to stay away that long. I am juggling so many things right now and blogging keeps getting pushed further down my list.
Anywaaay… I stole this post from Kristen because I thought it might be fun and an easy way to get back into blogging. I hate being called an expat (please don’t single me out from other “migrants”!) but didn’t have an alternative title, so it stays.

1. WHERE WERE YOU BORN, WHERE DID YOU GROW UP AND WHERE DO YOU CURRENTLY LIVE?

I was born in Aldershot (“Home of the British Army”) and I guess grew up there, in Northern Ireland and in Northumberland – although, when does the “growing up” stage finish? I was a teenager by the time I moved up North…
I currently live just outside Basel in Switzerland.

Basel
Basel town hall

 

2. WHAT MADE YOU LEAVE YOUR HOME COUNTRY

Originally university. I was studying German and a year in a German-speaking country was a requirement to get my degree. I met Jan there, and after 2 years in a long-distance relationship decided to move back to Germany. Such a cliché.

3. WHAT TYPE OF REACTIONS DO YOU GET WHEN YOU MEET NEW PEOPLE AND TELL THEM WHERE YOU ARE FROM?

It varies. “What brought you to Switzerland?” mainly. A lot of people ask whether I work at Roche or Novartis (two pharmaceutical companies that are the main employers in Basel, particularly of “expats” – ugh, that word again).  When I lived in Germany I occasionally got “Do you really put vinegar on your chips?”, and people would ask why Karlsruhe of all places (I guess most Brits go to Berlin or Munich).

4. WHAT WAS THE EASIEST/HARDEST PART IN ADJUSTING TO YOUR NEW COUNTRY?

To Switzerland? It wasn’t actually that hard because I’d been in Germany for over 8 years and Basel at least is quite similar to Germany in many ways. So I guess that was the easiest part? Going back to not understanding people was difficult – Swiss German is hard! Just yesterday a neighbour came and spoke to me while I was doing laundry and I only understood about half of what he said.

5. IMAGES, WORDS OR SOUNDS THAT SUM UP THE EXPAT EXPERIENCE YOU’VE HAD SO FAR.

Are we talking my entire expat experience? As in Austria, Germany and Switzerland? Because that’s a lot! But as Kristen said, my life here is just life. I work, I shop, I cook, I do laundry just as I would anywhere else. I guess regularly speaking two languages is different, and we eat food that isn’t available in England (and, conversely, don’t eat other food because it isn’t available here). So I guess speaking German and food are my  words? Here’s an image that seems to fit:

fondue

6. YOUR FAVOURITE FOOD OR DRINK ITEM IN YOUR NEW COUNTRY

Oh wow, that’s difficult. Maybe Rösti? Although I rarely eat it because I’m too lazy to make my own 😉 For drink I guess some local beer? I can’t think of anything else that isn’t available elsewhere… oh, except some fizzy pops like “Rivella” and “Flauder” (I do like that second one) but I rarely drink pop soo…

7. WHAT’S THE ONE THING YOU SAID “YES” TO IN YOUR NEW CITY THAT YOU WOULDN’T SAY “YES” TO, BACK HOME?

Umm… I have no idea? I probably wouldn’t have gone hiking at home but only because I would never have had Jan to drag me out 😉

8. ARE THERE ANY CULTURAL NORMS/PHRASES IN YOUR NEW COUNTRY WHICH YOU CANNOT STAND?

Quiet hours! In Switzerland, the law states that from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. and from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. plus all day on Sundays and public holidays are “quiet hours”. During those times you are not allowed to do anything that makes a noise… so no hammering/drilling, no hoovering (vacuuming ;-)), no doing laundry, no mowing the lawn, no playing instruments. And, of course, no using the glass recycling bins. In our building, you are actually not supposed to drill/hammer after 6 p.m. and hoovering and instruments are banned after 8 p.m. (Drums are banned at every time unless in a sound-proofed room). I understand the night-time quiet rules – those with kids especially probably appreciate it being quiet when they’re sleeping – BUT WHEN AM I SUPPOSED TO DO MY HOUSEWORK?! The lack of recycling annoys me as well, especially coming from Germany where practically everything gets recycled! Ooh, and I hate that practically everything is closed on Sundays. I mean, I’m used to shops being closed on Sundays after Germany, but finding a café or restaurant that’s open should not be as difficult as it is! As for phrases… I guess that question assumes I live in an English-speaking country?

9. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST DOING IN YOUR NEW COUNTRY?

I enjoy going down to the river and just sitting… I love having the river flow right through town. But that’s a Basel thing, not a Switzerland thing. I also enjoying travelling and exploring Switzerland, but I also did that in Germany and would do it even if I lived in England. Umm, does that answer the question in any way?

basel-rhine

10. DO YOU THINK YOU WILL EVER MOVE HOME FOR GOOD?

Nope. A few years ago it might have been a possibility, but after Brexit no way. Why would I want to live in a country where half the population have said my partner is not welcome? And by extension my future kids who will be way more German than British. Of course, Brexit may end up being the reason I am forced to move home if the “hard-Brexit” brigade gets their way…

That was the last question, but I hate to end on a bad note so I would like to add that I love living here and it feels like home more than any place has ever felt like home in my life (I mean, Karlsruhe felt like in the last few years there – and is still the place I’ve lived the longest in one stretch ever – but I felt an instant connection with Basel that made me wonder what I ever saw in Karlsruhe). It’s only been 2 and a half years though, so who knows what the future will hold…

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23 thoughts on “Expat Qs

  1. Love this post! I’ve not blogged since the end of September, so I hope you don’t mind if I steal what you’ve stolen. 🙂 I don’t mind the quiet hours/days here in southwestern Germany, but I also don’t work full time. We also live in our own house, so if I shut the windows nice and tight, I can get away with hoovering on Sunday – with the appropriate guilty conscience, of course.

    1. I didn’t mind in Germany because I had reasonable neighbours who didn’t complain if I turned on my washing machine on a Sunday or hoovered after work. Here, not long after we arrived somebody stuck a copy of our Hausordnung on the door with the part about not drilling after 6 highlighted. We had drilled a grand total of SIX holes for shelves and got finished at 6:05 p.m.

      Steal away – Kristen got it from elsewhere as well.

  2. It feels like home… I like that. I had that feeling, almost instantly, when we went to the mountains in NC for summer vacation. We are actually looking for a cabin to buy and go there whenever we can and eventually live there for good – once the kids are done with school.

  3. Love a good Q&A post… may have to do this one myself!

    The Swiss sound pretty intense about the quiet hours, which means we can never move there, haha. If we couldn’t do vacuuming/laundry in the evening or on the weekends, our house would be even more disastrous than it already is. 😂

    1. Yeah, the Swiss seem to be pretty strict about it – although I heard horror stories about Germany as well, but in Germany we were lucky enough to have neighbours who didn’t mind. Here the washing machine is in the cellar (and shared – I guess that’s another weird Swiss custom I could have mentioned but I’m so used to it now I forgot!) so people WILL notice if it’s used during “quiet time”. You’re also not supposed to hang laundry outdoors on a Sunday here. Weeeird! And my flat is a disaster area no matter what 😉

      1. Good neighbors make such a difference, no matter where you live! We’re pretty spoiled here in our fortress of solitude, so if we ever have to move into a “normal” apartment, it will be a MAJOR adjustment. Are shared laundry facilities not common in the UK? That’s fairly normal in a lot of US apartment complexes… still not something I care to revisit, haha.

      2. Nope… the only place I ever had to share laundry facilities in the UK was my student residence in first year (and obviously I shared a washing machine with my housemates for the rest of uni as well, but it was just in the kitchen of the house we lived in). Although I should add that I have never lived in an apartment building in the UK so I’ve no idea what it’s like there. I really can’t imagine anyone there not having their own washing machine though! We asked about installing one here and were told we could if we got permission but really there’s nowhere to put it, so we sold ours to a friend when we left Germany.

  4. I totally sympathise with the Brexit stuff. I don’t want to go back to the UK either, and I don’t even have a mainland-European partner! I am so cross at our country for making such a ridiculous decision. I could rant but I’ll try not to.

    Basel sounds like a nice place to live! I’m laughing about the quiet laws because whilst it does sound kind of idyllic, you’re right – when do you do stuff!? And of course the Swiss will stick to the rules 🙂

    I didn’t know vinegar on chips was so strange!

    1. I could rant sooo much, but I save that for Facebook 😉 Haha.

      Malt vinegar isn’t a thing in Germany so they assume we put like white wine vinegar or something on chips, which really would be weird! Once I introduce them to chips and malt vinegar most of them like it. Other questions I always got in Germany are “Do you really eat ham and eggs for breakfast all the time” where I have to explain that it’s not HAM and eggs (I’ve seen the text book that idea comes from and I want to ban it from German schools) and of course we don’t eat it every day and “Do you really put mint sauce on lamb?” – I discovered that they’re thinking of some kind of peppermint, almost toothpastey sauce so I introduced some Germans to lamb with proper mint sauce then they understood 😉

  5. interesting that you don’t like to be called an expat. i like the term alien. haha. but honestly, sometimes i feel like there should be another term, because i live here now and this is where my life is. but i guess that is the definition of expat. i guess i always thought of an expat as someone who was only living somewhere for a short time, or were definitely returning home. which is silly but that was the definition in my head.
    i think it’s hilarious about the questions people ask, like the vinegar on the chips one.
    the quiet hours kind of blow my mind a little bit. and the things closed on sundays, that drives me bonkers, though i don’t think it is as bad here. i just don’t understand it. well i *understand* it, i just don’t agree with it haha. NOTHING is closed at home on sundays. nothing. not like shops or places to get food.
    i’m glad it feels like home for you 🙂 that is awesome. i can’t imagine dealing with something like brexit. what a mess 😦

    1. I think a lot of people assume expats will eventually inevitably move “home”, which is part of the reason the term annoys me – this IS my home thanks! Also I hate that it seems to be reserved for people from countries that are perceived as rich. British, American, Australian – you’re an “expat”. Indian, Turkish, Polish – “migrant”. Whenever the German news says somebody has a “migrant background” and they’re not a refugee you can almost guarantee they’re Turkish (or sometimes African).

  6. This is such a great post! I totally agree with you about the expat tag, it drives me bonkers, what makes me an expat and others immigrants…during the whole Brexit saga I must have said it a hundred times. I also might borrow this post and do my own! Merry Christmas x

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